Chapter 8 - Japan
The relationship with Japan
is one of the most important bilateral relationships for China.
We are pleased to see that after normalisation of ties, the relationship
and Japan has
enjoyed tremendous development. Last year, our trade approached US$170 billion.
People travelling back and forth between the two countries exceeded 4 million.
But as you see, there are obstacles to this relationship,
especially in the political field.
In 1972, after a long period of mutual enmity, China
started the process of normalising their relationship. Since then, both
countries have taken steps to strengthen diplomatic ties, improve mutual
understanding and to achieve greater cooperation between them. This chapter
examines the relationship between China
and Japan. It considers
issues that affect the current state of the association, including wartime
history, territorial and resource disputes, competition for regional influence
and the interdependence of their economies. The chapter outlines Australia's
interest in how these two countries manage their relationship and considers the
implications for Australia.
appreciate that they have shared interests in developing and maintaining a strong
bilateral relationship. The leaders of both countries have publicly expressed
their desire to continue to develop long-term, stable and amicable relations. China's
foreign policy reflects this understanding:
is an important neighbour of the People's Republic of China.
Developing the China-Japan good-neighbourly, friendly and cooperative
relationship has been an important component of China's
foreign policy. Since 1972 when the two countries normalised diplomatic ties,
China-Japan relations have been deepened constantly, and grown substantially in
Despite these sentiments, China's
progress in improving relations with Japan
has not been as steady or as smooth as it has been with its ASEAN neighbours. Sino–Japanese
relations are generally characterised by close economic ties tempered by an
intermittently strained political relationship; described as 'economically warm'
and 'politically cool'. In particular, 2005 was a year of strain and tension in
the China–Japan political relationship. The China–Japan relationship was
summarised by the Department of Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade (DFAT) in
its submission to the committee:
Despite growing economic integration between China
and Japan, with
each other's largest merchandise trading partner, political ties remain strained.
Irritants include growing competition for resources, the recent intrusion into
Japanese waters of a Chinese nuclear submarine, Chinese oil and gas exploration
near the median line between Chinese and Japanese EEZs, and the long-running
dispute over Prime Minister Koizumi's
visits to the Yasukuni Shrine.
The following section examines some of the matters
which have caused, and continue to create, tension in the relationship between China
Issues contributing to the tension in the China–Japan relationship
In April 2005, anti-Japanese sentiment erupted when
tens of thousands of protestors gathered at violent rallies across China
in the biggest anti-Japanese protests in China's
history. During the three weekends
of protests, windows were broken at Japan's
embassy in Beijing and consulate in
Shanghai, while Japanese-style restaurants and
Japanese-made cars were also attacked.
The press reported that local police officers made no effort to prevent the
protests or to arrest people responsible for vandalism against Japanese
diplomatic missions and private property.
condemned the riots and protested to the Chinese government, asserting that China
had failed to demonstrate an adequate response to the disturbances.
The committee recognises that large-scale public
protests are not common in China.
In evidence to the committee, Professor Bruce
Jacobs from Monash
University indicated that even
though the Chinese government did not instigate the riots, they were certainly
willing to permit their occurrence.
DFAT told the committee that much of the recent and
ongoing tension between China
relates to historical issues, particularly over Japanese actions perceived by China
to be inconsistent with Japanese apologies for its wartime treatment of other
countries in Asia, including China.
Chinese sensitivity over World War
Japanese history textbooks
The protests in 2005 were reportedly a manifestation of
Chinese anger over Japan's
approval of a history textbook that was perceived to play down Japan's
wartime atrocities. The murdering of up to 300,000 Nanking
civilians, the recruitment of thousands of Chinese women as prostitutes for
Japanese soldiers and biological weapons testing on Chinese villages were among
the events alleged to have been subject to understatement or omission in the
text. However, controversy over Japan's
reputation for sanitising its war history in educational material is not new.
Similar concerns were reported in April 2001, when a Japanese high school
textbook was denounced for glossing over the colonisation of Manchuria
and the Nanking massacre.
The Japanese Foreign Minister, Nobutaka
Machimura, defended Japan's
textbooks against China's
allegations, saying they do not gloss over Japan's
invasion of other Asian countries.
In reference to China's
own approach to recording history, he has also said:
From the perspective of a Japanese person, Chinese textbooks
appear to teach that everything the Chinese government has done has been
correct...there is a tendency towards this in any country but the Chinese
textbooks are extreme in the way they uniformly convey the 'our country is
Visits by the Japanese Prime
Minister to the Yasukuni shrine
is also upset about the Japanese Prime Minister's visit to the Yasukuni shrine,
a monument that honours Japan's
war dead but reportedly also enshrines 14 convicted Class A war criminals. China's
leaders have banned formal meetings with Japanese Prime
Minister Koizumi for the past three years
because of his visits to the Yasukuni shrine.
The Japanese Prime Minister regarded China's
condemnation of the visits as foreign interference in Japan's
domestic affairs. While acknowledging the war crimes, the Prime Minister
insists his visits to the shrine are based on personal beliefs.
This issue received attention at the APEC summit in
November 2005, where Prime Minister Koizumi
stated that he was merely offering prayers for those who died in war and
expressing thanks for their sacrifices. In relation to Japan's
relationship with China
he added that 'even if there is a difference in views on one issue, that
shouldn't be allowed to hurt good relations'.
The visit was again raised as the reason behind the cancellation of a planned
bilateral meeting which was due to take place in Kuala
Lumpur in December 2005. A planned trilateral meeting between
and South Korea
was also cancelled as a result of the tensions over wartime history.
Some witnesses to the inquiry disagreed with China's
stance against Japan
regarding the Second World War. For example, Professor
Director of the Defence and Strategic Studies Centre at the Australian National
University (ANU), told the committee that China's
posturing against Japan
is unreasonable and provocative:
The way it is currently
treating Japan, from my point of view, is abominable. It keeps harping on about the
Second World War as if it were yesterday. It was not yesterday. It was over three generations
ago. If it wants to push the Japanese down the path of rearmament, it is a
smart way of doing it.
been noted that Japan's Prime Minister and its Emperor have apologised to China on 17 occasions since the countries
restored diplomatic relations in 1972 for the conduct of the occupying Japanese
army in the 1930s and 1940s. However, China has not deemed these expressions of regret to
Sino-Japanese strategic rivalry
While the issues outlined above may constitute a basis
for some of the historical and enduring mistrust at a political level, they do
not adequately explain contemporary political relations between the two
countries. Each country also harbours concerns over the other's strategic interests
in the region. Particularly notable has been China's
concerns over Japan's
moves to assume an increased security role in the regional and globally,
especially through its close alliance with the U.S.,
including joint statements on Taiwan,
and attempts to gain a permanent seat on the UN Security Council. Similarly,
analysts have suggested that Japan's
efforts to expand its role in the region have been in response to its own
concern about China's
attributed the recent tension in the China–Japan relationship in 2005 to Japan's
expanding strategic role:
The recent anti-Japanese riots and demonstrations which took
place in China
followed a statement by the Japanese and Americans. The Japanese and Americans
had a meeting and they put out a communiqu which had one sentence which said
that both nations were concerned about their security in the Taiwan
Strait area, and this, I think, is what really upset the Chinese.
It was on that basis then that you had all these Japanese riots.
The communiqu referred to by Professor
Jacobs was signed in February 2005,
following a meeting between the U.S. Secretary of State and Defense Secretary
Foreign and Defence ministers. It was the first time the two countries had
to be a common security concern.
The Chinese government responded in the following way:
The Chinese Government and people resolutely opposes the United
States and Japan in issuing any bilateral document concerning China's Taiwan,
which meddles in the internal affairs of China, and hurts China's sovereignty.
In March 2005, Japan
also issued a statement on China's
Anti-Secession law, stating that:
A peaceful solution through dialogues between the parties
concerned is necessary for the issues concerning Taiwan,
strongly hopes for an early resumption of the dialogue for that purpose. Being
consistently against use of force, Japan
is against any means of solution other than a peaceful one.
Recent statements from the Chinese Foreign Ministry that
criticise Japan's approach to its war history and to the Taiwan situation indicate
that China holds Japan responsible for the deterioration in their relationship:
In recent years, the Japanese side has been driving in reverse
gears on the historical and Taiwan
issues and repeatedly failed its trust to the Chinese people, which has
seriously damaged the friendly relationship restored and developed by the elder
generations of statesmen with painstaking efforts and severely harmed the
friendly feelings resumed by the two peoples with great efforts.
The Chinese clearly see the need for Japan
to take action to repair the damage done to their relationship. In April 2005, Chinese
State Councilor Tang Jiaxuan stated:
At present, China-Japan relations encounter difficulties, the
responsibility of which does not lie with the Chinese side. The key to overcome
these difficulties and return China–Japan relations back to the track of normal
development is that Japan
should demonstrate its political will to improve and develop our relations with
earnest action instead of only verbal expression.
Harris, a China
specialist at the School of Pacific
and Asian Studies (ANU), has discussed Japan
relations in the broader context of 'competition for influence and leadership'.
He indicated that Japan
was inevitably seeking to exert more influence in response to China's
emergence as a dominant regional power:
response to China's
increased influence is to be more assertive in relations with China
and other regional countries, such as South
Korea. Corresponding to Japan's
increased nationalism as it seeks to be a normal country is a comparable
Chinese nationalist response to what it regards as Japan's
failure to acknowledge its historic role in the war with China.
He cited China's
attempts to frustrate Japan's
ambitions to become a permanent member on the United Nations Security Council
as an example of the contest between China
and Japan over
international recognition and standing.
has strongly opposed Japan's
efforts to secure a permanent seat in an expanded United Nations Security
Council. In September 2004, Japan
launched a united bid with Brazil,
Germany and India
to acquire permanent seats on the UN Security Council as part of a broader
package of reform for the UN.
According to former Australian Ambassador to the PRC, Mr
the permissive attitude of the Chinese authorities to the April 2005 riots may
have partly reflected China's
disapproval of Japan's
attempt to become a permanent member of the UN Security Council.
push for a permanent seat on the UN Security Council, a Chinese Foreign
Ministry spokesman reportedly stated that the UN Security Council is:
...not a board of directors and its composition should not be
decided according to the financial contribution of its members.
We understand Japan's
expectation to play a greater role in international affairs. But we also
believe that if a country wishes to play a responsible role in international
affairs, it must have a clear understanding of the historical questions
Again referring to Japan's
war record, China
has insisted that Japan
is not ready for elevation to a permanent seat on the Security Council until it
is more contrite about its pre-1945 record.
Premier Wen stated that:
The invasion war launched by Japan
last century brought severe calamity to the people not only in China
and Asia, but also the world. Recently the civilians in
some neighbouring countries including China voluntarily organised
demonstrations against Japan in pursuit of becoming a permanent member of the
United Nations Security Council...only the country respecting the history, with
the courage to take responsibility for the history and obtaining the trust of
the people in Asia and the world could play greater role in the international
told the committee that China
was extremely sensitive to the strategic ambitions of a country that had acted
unjustly towards them:
We have underestimated the sensitivity in Beijing to the
proposal to make Japan a permanent member of the Security Council...they do not
see why the aggressor and the defeated nation of the second World war should
now have emerging out of the postwar settlement a status equal to their own.
That has touched a rather raw nerve.
These long historical animosities have to be contained. They are
always there and can be reactivated for national purposes at any time.
Despite the historical rhetoric, however, current
Sino–Japanese tension over UN representation and U.S.–Japan alliance appears to
reflect broader concerns by both nations that the other is escalating
competition for influence within the region. DFAT's 2003 Foreign and Trade
Policy White Paper said of the Sino–Japan relationship:
Japanese views are increasingly influenced by perceptions of China
as a competitor, although economic interdependence between the two is becoming
deeper. This is spurring diplomatic rivalry between the two for influence in Asia,
particularly South-east Asia.
In their submission to the inquiry, Mr Reg Little and Mr
suggested that 'Japan
faces a difficult transition from a client relationship with the United
States to a similar relationship with China'. Although the Japanese Defence
Minister has indicated that Japan
did not see China
as a military threat, their recent remilitarisation activities seem to be in
part due to China's
emerging influence and military modernisation. Further, the ruling Japanese Liberal
Democratic Party has proposed revising its pacifist constitution to extend Japan's
military capabilities beyond self-defence and into participation in global
Resources and territorial disputes
and Japan also
have longstanding disagreements over maritime boundaries; a significant matter
given the possible exploitation of mineral resources.
The dispute over ownership of the Japanese-controlled
Senkaku islands (China
calls them the Diaoyu islands) in the East China Sea
also flared in 2005 when Japan's
trade ministry moved to issue drilling concessions. The islands are oil and gas
rich and near key international shipping routes. Japan
said the planned exploration leases lie on its side of the boundary that it
recognises—the median line between Chinese and Japanese land territories.
claims its economic zone extends further east to a trench in the sea floor. Japan
has reiterated calls for China
to disclose the extent of its own exploration efforts near the sea border. China
does not recognise the border line and said it is drilling in an undisputed
area, while Japan
has asserted that China's
activities could siphon gas from Japan's
side of the border.
In November 2004, a Chinese submarine entered Japanese
territorial waters near its southern islands, apparently to test maritime
defences. Japanese forces detected the submarine and Japan
demanded and received an apology from China
over the incident.
Encouragingly, the debate seems to have now shifted to
whether the area could be jointly developed. In May 2005, China
proposed that the two countries co-operate in gas fields on the eastern side of
the median line as claimed by Japan.
the proposal and refused to suspend drilling on the western side of the median
line. In October 2005, Japan
proposed to China
that they jointly develop the gas fields in the disputed area. Also in October, a Japanese embassy
official in Washington
provided evidence that China
was drilling for gas in the disputed part of the East China Sea.
Japan has asked
China to stop
drilling but stressed that Japan
was willing to resolve tensions through negotiations.
Importance of regional stability
for Japan and China
A politically stable and mutually beneficial Sino–Japanese
relationship is important not only for these two powerful nations, but for
their region generally. According to the Japanese Foreign Affairs Ministry:
considers its relationship with China
to be one of its most important bilateral relationships and it is to promote
further cooperation in various areas under the Partnership of Friendship and
Cooperation for Peace and Development. In recent years, interdependence between
Japan and China
has deepened more and more, and it is extremely important for Japan's
peace and prosperity to build stable, friendly and cooperative relations with China.
Japan and China, both of which have great influence in the international
community, are expected to not only bring profit to both, but also to cooperate
with one another and to promote a 'future-oriented' and 'mutually beneficial'
Japan-China relationship for peace and prosperity in the Asia-Pacific region,
and thus the world.
Despite the political tensions that exist between China
and Japan, the
two nations have an extensive trade relationship. In 2004, Japan
third largest trading partner, behind the European Union and the U.S. It is to be hoped that the two
countries' economic interest in a politically stable region and mutually
beneficial trade will ensure that Sino–Japanese political relations begin to
The Department of Defence stated in its submission that
destabilisation in China
was not in the interests of any country in the region:
economic rise will pose challenges for some countries over the next decade,
the consequences for regional stability could be greater if growth stalled or
there was social breakdown in China.
As noted by DFAT, 'Australia
sees the Japan–U.S. alliance as a cornerstone of regional security', while 'Japan
and China will
be of fundamental importance to maintaining regional stability and prosperity'.
Implications for Australia
remains one of Australia's
primary trading partners and long-term political and strategic allies in the
Asia-Pacific region. Both countries value the close relationship of goodwill
and cooperation that they have forged over the post-war period. The Australian
Prime Minister has stated that 'Australia
has no greater friend in Asia than Japan', also emphasising Japan's
importance as Australia's
'largest export market...and a strategic partner for regional peace and
prosperity'. In September 2005, he
reiterated the strength and endurance of this association:
It has been the largest export destination for Australia
for about 40 years and is likely to remain so for many years in to the future.
The partnership between Australia
and Japan has
continued to evolve off the back of a quiet revolution in Japanese foreign
This shift in Japanese foreign policy is reflected in
their efforts to gain a permanent seat on the UN's Security Council, discussed earlier
at paragraphs 8.24-8.25.
Australia and Japan also share close political and
strategic allegiances with the U.S. Japan is strategically closer to the U.S.
than its regional neighbours, while Australia has been closely aligned with the
U.S. for over 50 years through the ANZUS Treaty commitment. It is within this
strategic framework that the implications of Sino–Japanese relations need to be
Van Ness of the ANU's Contemporary China
Centre has described the close U.S.–Japan–Australia relationship in the context
of the U.S.'
like Japan, has
supported the major Bush administration initiatives of the President's first
term, especially the 'global war on terror' and the invasion of Iraq.
The two countries are seen in effect as the anchors of U.S.
policy, North and South, in the East Asian region.
In keeping with the framework of its existing strategic
has supported Japan
on issues over which China
has expressed its displeasure. For instance, the Australian government has
new preparedness to take a leading role in regional security, also advocating their representation
on the UN's Permanent Security Council.
Prime Minister John Howard
recently noted Japan's
extending security responsibilities:
This quiet revolution in Japan's external policy—one which
Australia has long encouraged—is a welcome sign of a more confident Japan
assuming its rightful place in the world and in our region.
Given our existing strategic alliances, Australia
potentially faces difficult choices in the event of a breakdown in relations
and Japan. Indeed,
any tension between these two most influential Asian nations complicates China's
relations with the U.S.
Ness, however, stated that as long as Sino–Japanese
relations do not deteriorate, Australia
will continue to benefit from healthy relations with both China
It seems to me that Australia
is, in a sense, in a wonderful position. Australia
has excellent relations with the United States,
excellent relations with Japan
and very, very good relations with China.
obviously wants to do is to keep the very best relations with all of them and
never be put in a situation where they have to choose.
has rejected concerns that Australia
should be worried about alienating China.
Instead, he has expressed his own concern about Australia
potentially accommodating China's
perspective at the expense of our relations with Japan:
It is a matter of serious concern that Beijing
is taking such a belligerent attitude towards Japan.
That can only raise tensions in northeast Asia and put
regional security at risk. As important as Australia's
relations are with China,
our relationship with Japan
is much more important.
In parallel with Sino–U.S. relations, tension between China
and Japan over
regional competition has the potential to become a sensitive issue in Australia's
relations with China.
finding a balance between maintaining its important strategic alliances and
continuing to improve already good relations with China,
which holds particular grievances with our allies, will require sensitive
The Prime Minister visited both China
and Japan in
late April 2005, just after the Chinese demonstrations over Japan
had reached their peak. Before leaving, he indicated that he did not want to
'take sides', advocating the same approach that characterises the government's
attitude to balancing relations with China
and the U.S.:
[It] must be possible
for nations to have close relations with other nations without those
relationships impairing their relationships with third countries, that is
certainly our view.
On the quarrel over the interpretation of war
history, Mr Downer
has stated that the matter is one 'entirely for China
and Japan' and
one that both countries need to work through.
The committee believes, however, that such a stand does not preclude Australia
from continuing its public support for Japan
on matters such as becoming a permanent member of the UN Security Council.
Trilateral security dialogue—Japan,
the United States
The committee notes that Australia
is committed to participate in a ministerial-level trilateral security dialogue
with Japan and
the U.S. In May
2005, at the announcement of the upgrading of the trilateral talks to
ministerial level, the U.S. Secretary of State, Dr Condoleezza Rice, stated
that the arrangement would provide the opportunity for the foreign ministers
'to get together periodically to discuss the many issues of interest that we
have in the Asia Pacific region but also global issues of interest'.
In evidence to the committee, Professor
Harris cautioned against the exclusion of China
from this security dialogue:
The idea of bringing China into these issues is a much better way to
go. If we really want to get China working cooperatively in the international
system that would be much more helpful in the long run. I do think it does
work very cooperatively in the international system but the security area is a
different ball game and I think they should have been brought in rather than
sat out while we three discussed what we were going to do about China.
Ness also warned against sending China
the wrong signal:
...the trilateral arrangement of Australia,
Japan and the U.S.
makes more problems than it provides answers. What it says to China is: ‘They’re ganging up. It’s the old
"get the democracies aligned in a potential containment arrangement"
In July 2005, the Australian Foreign Minister
emphasised that the U.S.–Japan–Australia security dialogue was not part of a
strategy to contain Chinese influence:
This...isn't a security dialogue that is directed at China.
This is a security dialogue that draws together three countries which have
global interests, not just regional interests and we have global things to talk
about, not least our respective commitments in Afghanistan and Iraq...Australia
doesn't believe in a policy of containment of China. We believe in a policy of
engaging with China,
of ensuring that China
is fully integrated into the affairs of the region and the world.
On the eve of the trilateral talks in March 2006,
however, the U.S. Secretary of State foreshadowed the U.S.'
concerns about China's
growing influence and military development. Dr
And I think all of us in the region, particularly those of us
who are longstanding allies, have a joint responsibility and obligation to try
and produce conditions in which the rise of China
will be a positive force in international politics, not a negative force.
That means that we need to engage the Chinese in dialogue about
security in the region. Now that is sometimes difficult because there are some
longstanding historical issues and troubles that get in the way. I think Australia,
the United States,
Japan can think
about ways to deal with some of those issues.
We together to try to, recognizing that China is going to
improve its military, is going to build up its military, but to make sure that
we're looking at a Chinese military buildup that is not outsized for China's
regional ambitions and interests. 
The committee believes that the trilateral discussions
should maintain their original broad focus on regional and global security
issues and definitely not adopt a stance that could be interpreted by other
East Asian countries, especially China,
as a move to contain China's
influence. It suggests that the three countries in the dialogue should be
careful to ensure that their discussions are aimed at involving China
as an important partner in securing regional stability.
The committee recognises that China
and Japan are
two countries naturally positioned to exert great influence in East
Asia. Therefore, a cooperative and peaceful Sino–Japanese
relationship is vital for the stability of the region. Their relationship also
has a direct bearing on Australia's
interests in the region. China
is fast becoming one of Australia's
major trading allies with political and cultural ties also strengthening. Japan
is one of Australia's
most important and long-standing partners in the region with not only close
economic links, but shared regional strategic interests. Australia
would therefore like to see both countries maintain friendly relations.
There are, however, some deep-seated disagreements
between China and Japan which flare from time to time giving rise to
acrimonious outbursts and a failure to support each other. The committee
current stand that the arguments are between China
and Japan and
that it should not interfere. Even so, the committee believes that Australia
has a role to encourage both countries to actively engage in regional fora
where they can meet and discuss matters in an environment conducive to the
resolution of problems.
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